by Adrian Chamberlin
Published by Dark Continents, 2011.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I could pay to The Caretakers, Adrian Chamberlin’s first novel is that it doesn’t feel like a first novel. It’s a confident well written and thorougly satisfying supernatural thriller.
Andy Hughes is a dangerous character with a dark and violent past, freshly released from prison after serving a term for murder he is offered a job by a gangland boss. It’s a job which takes him back to the scene of his crime and his former friends and enemies.
It’s also a job which takes him deep into the dark secrets of All Souls College, Cambridge. It’s as those secrets are gradually revealed that Andy and his old friends Rob, Jennifer and Philip become aware that they are facing an evil with roots in the dark and brutal, pagan past of the area.
This is a novel which succesfully utilises ancient myths and ancient history to create a believable background. Invoking thoughts and images of the Green Man, Boudica and her fight against the Romans along with some of the deeply strange traditions carried out in many of our ancient institutions, the background to the story feels realistic and mysterious.
There’s not much to fault with the writing either, although there is a tendency to exposition and perhaps some descriptive passages were a bit too long and detailed. A bit more rigourous editing might have made the writing a bit pacier but other than that the characters are interesting, the settings are well portrayed and the plot engaging, not bad for a first novel.
Reminiscent of Adam Nevill’s supernatural tales (especially Banquet For The Damned) with firm roots in British mythology this novel also tips it’s hat to the genre tradition with evidence of influnce from Machen’s pagan horrors and maybe a bit of William Hope Hodgson’s sense of cosmic horror linked to historical locations (or maybe that’s just the pigs!).
Whatever its influences though The Caretakers is a fine horror story and a very promising start to Adrian Chamberlin’s novel writing career. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future but in the meantime can happily recommend this book as fine addition to the shelf marked British Horror.